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Missing trans flag decried as campus hate crime — turns out it was one big ‘misunderstanding’

After a trans flag hung outside the Queer Resource Center at the Claremont Colleges in Southern California went missing earlier this month, it was initially decried among some in the campus community as a hate crime and act of violence.

But earlier this week the students at the consortium of five private liberal arts colleges were informed the incident was actually one big “misunderstanding.”

An email sent Tuesday to students by Manuel Diaz, director of the Queer Resource Center and assistant dean of students at Pomona College, explained that when the flag went missing on the evening of March 2 the center staff initially filed a “campus safety” report.

“The initial assumption was that this act was the direct result of transphobia. Such acts of violence and discrimination are things the QRC works hard to combat at The Claremont Colleges,” Diaz stated. “However, a few days post-incident, the trans flag was returned to the QRC with an apology. During this process, Pharalyn [Crozier, assistant director of the center] and I learned this incident was not an act of transphobia nor was anyone harmed in the process.”

Yet the damage had already been done. As the Claremont Independent reported, the missing flag was first decried by some in the campus community as a hate crime.

“During the evening of the incident, some members of the Claremont Colleges community reacted in outrage; one person posted on Facebook asking the community to help find and identify those that took the flag labeling them as ‘bold a*s transphobes.’ Another commenter stated ‘this is so ugly, y’all don’t deserve rights,’” the Independent reported.

Complicating matters, although staff at the Queer Resource Center quickly learned the incident was not malicious, and informed some students of that, not everyone learned the truth, leading many in the campus community to continue to think it was a hate crime, Diaz’s email stated.

“[I]t has come to our attention that our attempts to inform others that this was not a transphobic incident have not reached all members of our community to date,” Diaz stated. “Therefore, please accept our apology in not making a more public statement about this incident sooner as our intention was to balance the needs of the community with the need to widely share that this was a misunderstanding.”

More than three weeks passed between the flag going missing and Diaz sending his memo.

As the Claremont Independent notes: “It is not clear what Diaz refers to when discussing the need to ‘balance the needs of the community’ with the responsibility to provide the truth of the incident to the greater Claremont Colleges community, especially after serious accusations of transphobia had been made.”

Diaz, as well as Pomona College campus spokesman Mark Kendall, did not respond to emails sent Thursday by The College Fix seeking comment on the details of the flag’s disappearance.

Pomona College student Alec Sweet, co-editor-in-chief of the Claremont Independent, told The College Fix on Thursday that administrators have been “very vague with specifics.”

“I do not know how they took it down, nor who took it and then returned it,” Sweet said.

Asked to speculate whether it might have been a misunderstanding by a janitor, Sweet said probably not.

“It didn’t sound like a routine janitor based on how they said it was returned a few days later with an apology, but it also doesn’t appear to be an instance where someone tried to fake a crime either,” Sweet said.

“Either way, the school waited almost a whole month to clarify the incident to the student body, which has allowed most of the school to believe it was in fact a hate incident,” he said.

The Queer Resource Center serves the Claremont consortium, which consists of Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer colleges.

MORE: Here are 50 campus hate-crime hoaxes The College Fix has covered since 2012

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

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